Favorite Planning Pens

I am so sorry for the delay in getting this post out–I spent the weekend prepping for an important job interview on Monday and then immediately got sick. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ At least my body waited until my interview was over! So I am grateful for that. I went to the pros and was diagnosed with a sinus infection, so things have been a little foggy as I begin the healing process. Thank you all for being patient with me while I regroup and return to my regular schdule of blog posts! Now, as I promised, here is a post about my Favorite Planning Pens!

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I have a bit of a pen problem, which I mostly keep hidden in the top drawer of my “Everything Ara” cart. I love pens. I love trying new pens, I love switching up my pens, I love having the perfect pen for an occasion (snaps for anyone who always has a Sharpie at the Post Office!).

My penย obsession has been going on for years, ever since I was old enough to write. My mother, a bonafide pen snob, always had the most beautiful pens–which of course included a colorful selection of Pilot Precise V5 pens! I would sneak into her room and sit at her desk and write Important Sounding Things on loose paper or in one of my notebooks with her pens. When I started high school and procured my own pens, she and I would geek out over the smoothest ones and “borrow” them back and forth.

And so I started amassing my collection. I have ballpoint pens, rollerball pens, felt tip pens, gel pens, markers, and everything in-between. I have haunted the pen selections in my local art supply stores and on Amazon. I have paid attention to the pens that all of you lovely planner babes use and love. As a result, I think I have some great options to share with you! I am going to break this up into two sections: favorite pen collections and my favorite of each type of pen.

Pentel Slicci 0.25

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Starting small, one of my absolute favorite pens is the Pentel Slicci 025. You can buy a color pack of them on Amazon for $17.66, which gets you 8 pens.

This is a very fine pen with a smooth gel ink. It is perfect for smaller spaces, especially planners where you might not have a lot of room to write. These pensย produce a delicate line and can help you fit a lot of writing into a space. I use them a lot in my bloom plannerย and think they are fantastic for getting the most out of a more compact book or spread.

Pilot Juice 0.38

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The Pilot Juice 0.38 is a fantastic pen–one of my all-time favorites. I always have one of these pens on me. It uses a gel ink with a fine roller ballpoint to produce smooth, slightly glossy ink. You can get a colorful pack of them on Amazon for $12, or an all-black set of 10 for $9.99. Honestly, I think the all-black set is the better deal. Some of the colors are almost too light to be seen.

I use the Pilot Juice pen often. It is a fantastic everyday pen for those of you who like a finer point. This is my go-to pen for black ink in a functional planner spread, as you can see in my Emily Ley Simplified Planner.

Micron Pens

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These are high-quality pens–the Micron line has numerous sizes and colors for their felt tip, archival ink pens. I prefer their blues and standard black pens but have experimented with some colorful options. I generally prefer their thin 005 points, but lately have been into a little more substance and using their 02 and 03 points. The great news is they have lots of options, so you can find what works best for you. You can get a colorful or all-black pack of Microns on Amazon for about $12.

Micron pens work really well on smooth paper, like the type of Karma Paper Co. uses. They have long-lasting ink that will look good years from now, so if you are the type of planner babe that holds onto all your used planners and likes to look back on them fondly, then I would definitely consider the Micron pen brand.

Staedtler triplusย fineliner

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These pens are great and provide a certain level of precision in writing that you don’t always see with felt tip pens. They can bleed on certain paper, or seep into porous paper and spread around a little, which makes them less crisp. But Staedtler triplus fineliners (which you can get an assorted colorful pack of 12 for about $12 on Amazon–great deal) are 0.3mm, which gives them a pretty fine point. Their colors are also rich and come across pretty clearly on the page.

Le Pen

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There is something so aesthetically pleasing about Le Pens, isn’t there? Le Pens can be found in lots of stationary stores and places, but are also available in a colorful pack of 10 for about $14 on Amazon. These pens don’t smear and, while not as clean as the Staedtler fineliners in my opinion, give you vibrant colors and feel great to write in.

I color-code (when I remember) with Le Pens in my Simplified Planner. The solid lines and bright colors make my color-coding system quite effective, even if it mostly shows up on my monthly spreads now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Erin Condren Markers

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Ah, the Erin Condren Colorful Dual-Tip Markers. I surprised myself with how much I love these pens. They are wonderful. I usually use the Fine end of the marker, and love the way it writes. It feels like a felt tip pen. Then you have a marker on the other side, just waiting with that heavy ink you randomly need as the Post Office. I find most of the colors are great, though the lighter ones are rather hard to see.

Most of my earlier Erin Condren Hourly spreads were done in the black and gray markers. You can get these markers on the Erin Condren website for $15 a set, or in Staples (when available).

Papermate Flair (M)

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I know this is a beloved pen in the planner community, and it’s for a good reason. These are definitely a thicker felt tip pen with a 1.0mm sized tip and bold, bright colors. Honestly I find that these pens work well on smooth, glossy paper and high-quality, thick paper but otherwise might bleed through or shadow.

I use them mostly for headers/very important things/etc in my planners, and only on paper that can handle them. Lately, I’ve been using Papermate Flair pens in my Refresh Weekly Planner to highight focus areas for the week. You can get a nice assortment of 12 pens for $10 at Office Depot, which is a pretty solid deal.

Highlighters–Stabilo Boss and Pilot Spotlighter

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I’ve used a lot of highlighters. In college and grad school, I relied on highlighters when reading for classes, color-coding in my ShePlans daily planner or Passion Planner, and other general highlighting needs. I still love highlighters. They can sometimes look messy in a planner, and you definitely have to make sure that the paper quality is high enough to handle highlighter use, but I’ve always had an easier time color-coding with highlighters than with pens, for some reason.

My favorites are the Stabilo Boss highlighters which have a thicker point but are relatively inky or the Pilot Spotlighter which has a bright but less inky presence on the page and won’t bleed.

Felt Tip Pens

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I love a good felt tip pen, especially for writing on smooth or glossy paper. I don’t recommend the felt tip route for writing on very porous/textured matte paper because the ink can expand and look less crisp. But I find that these pens will handle shiny/glossy surfaces like pros and force you to slow down while you are writing, which is kind of nice sometimes. You get cleaner lines because of it. I also stick to felt tip pens whenever I try to do something more colorful–I think they provide much better brightness and boldness for colorful pens than other types of ink.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite felt tip pen, but I’ve rounded it down to: Micron 02/03, U Brands, Erin Condren Marker, Staedtler triplus fineliner, Le Pen, and Papermate Flair M.

Rollerball/Gel Pens

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Rollerball pens are my all-time favorite type of pen to write with. I usually stick to black and blue in these colors and go for finer points (0.4 and below). I love a fine pen because my writing is fairly medium-sized. I like to switch it up between writing in all caps (usually appointments for the official-ness) and a more scripty handwriting (usually for tasks or notes). My script just looks better with a finer pen. I can also fit more into a space with a finer tipped pen, which is usually the goal when I’m planning.

My favorite pens to write with are: Pilot Juice 0.38, Pentel Slicci 0.25, Pilot G-2 0.38, and the Pentel Hybrid Technica 0.4mm.

Ballpoint Pens

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(Not the best picture, my apologies.) I used a lot of ballpoint pens in high school and college before I found my groove with rollerball pens. Ballpoint pens don’t smear very much and you can usually write on glossier surfaces with them (like felt tip pens). They last a while and are great pens, I just don’t enjoy writing with them as much as I used to. I like a smooth writing process, and ballpoints just don’t do that as well for me as rollerball pens.

My two favorite ballpoint pens are the Pilot Acroball Fine, which is a great ballpoint for writing quickly, and the Pilot EasyTouch Fine.

As you can tell, I tend to prefer a finer point in my pens. I know that pen preference is a personal thing, and that many of you like a thicker, inkier experience. To each their own, of course, but I wanted to provide a brief overview of the pens I like to use, why I enjoy using them, and link to some examples of when I’ve used them. I hope this was helpful!

I also like to do thorough pen tests when I review planners, as well. If there is a pen you think I should add to me pen test repertoire, please leave a comment and let me know! I’m always happy to try new pens and add pens to my pen test lineup. ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next time!

xo
Ara

My Husband & Productivity Planner

For this Thursday’s blog post, my husband let me take pictures of him with his planner–the Productivity Plannerย ($24.95).

I had tried to get my husband, Frank, into planning for a while. The dated planners–a Moleskine and a FRANK Stationary planner–just didn’t do it for him. He would lapse in using it and feel guilty picking it back up and seeing all the blank space. So I tried an undated approach and purchased the Productivity Planner for him.

It’s no secret that the world of planners and planner products is dominated by women. This means that a lot of planner companies and product designs are created with a female audience in mind. While adhering to a gender binary system is a conversation for another time and tied to the idea of performing gender in pre-determined ways, it is still nice for men to have unisex or masculine planner options. The Productivity Planner delivers in its minimalist, unisex design.

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The Productivity Planner went into production after a successful kickstarter in 2016. This compact but content-packed planner is filled with 35+ pages of tips, productivity hacks, instructions, and advice on how to best use this tool. When you buy their product (at least off Amazon–it can also be found in anthropologie and paper source) the company sends you a PDF of their first 35 pages of content so that you can get started before the planner even arrives. Frank loves productivity tips/books/advice and dug right in.

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I chose this planner for Frank because he works on a lot of projects and is trying to juggle a full-time job with rigorous research on the side. This planner is meant to be a non-work planner for him, a place where he can return to when he has time to work on a research paper or collaborative project. The undated system is perfect for his fluctuating schedule of availability.

With the Productivity Planner, you get 6 months of undated pages in a compact 5.2 x 8.5 inches. Frank carries it in his work bag almost every day and brings it along to our coffee shop dates. He uses it to manage multiple projects and to map out research strategies and progress. With so much going on in his head, he has really been enjoying using this planner to get everything down on paper in an organized, intentional way.

As mentioned, Frank primarily uses this planner for specific projects. He does a lot of original research with the goal of producing academic articles and often has multiple ongoing projects. This planner helps him focus on being productive and sticking to his research goals and process. He does not use this planner for daily life, which is why the undated system works so well for him.

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The Productivity Planner includes a Weekly Planning section followed by five day-per-pages. The Weekly Planning page lets you write in the week you are working during and list the Five Most Important Tasks of the Week, asking you to consider that “If these were the only tasks you completed during the week, you’d be satisfied.” Then there is space for Tasks of Secondary Importance. We love that the tasks are numbered and that secondary tasks continue with #6–10 instead of restarting with another set of #1–5. This reminds you that your secondary tasks literally come after whichever ones you set as your primary. Then there is space for any additional tasks. The bottom of the Weekly Planning page includes a space for you to make a commitment to being productive that week.

Daily pages follow the prioritizing method of primary, secondary, and additional tasks. Daily pages also include an inspirational or motivational quote to get you hyped. The Daily pages only give you space for five tasks with #1 as the most important. This helps you narrow in your focus and attack your goals in more bite-size, digestible chunks. There are check boxes and circles for using different productivity techniques like the Pomodoro method. Then there is space for Notes and a Productivity Score that you can give yourself at the end of your day.

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The paper quality is decent. There is some ghosting but Frank can use his Pilot G-2 07 or 10 pen without any bleed. He’s left-handed and writes a bit large, so he often packs these pages. I’ve never heard him complain about the paper or the size of the planner, even though he has mentioned writing in a small space can feel a little cramped.

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I asked Frank what he likes best about his planner and he wanted to do his own Loves and Nopes. So I will let his words speak for themselves:

Loves

  • A great collection of quotes, weekly and daily, to help you stay in the zone.
  • The planner is so flexible.ย  I use it for side projects that I go through on/off phases working on.ย  It would be wasteful for me to use a dated planner for this because whole weeks worth of paper would go unused (or I would have to cross out and rewrite dates all the time).ย  So, it’s perfect for organizing sessions to move forward on side-projects that are timeline fluid rather than planning every workday.
  • Great size, about the same as a Moleskine notebook so it’s very portable.
  • I really like the textured cover.ย  It feels sturdy and yummy when I pick it up.
  • The focus on one solid to-do each day should be the primary goal is really good.
  • Weekly reviews prompt you to reflect on how things are going and how you can improve.

Nopes

  • I’m conflicted about the introduction in the start giving tips for how to use the planner and helping you build good habits.ย  I enjoyed reading it and found it very helpful, but I don’t like so much space in the planner being dedicated to it.ย  Not that this is a major issue, I’m going to get a fresh one when I run out of space and I’m positive I will re-read the introduction.ย  Another option is for the creator to package the introduction into a small booklet shipped with the planner.
  • Productivity scoring yourself at the end of every day can be useful for starting to build habits and finding what works and doesn’t work, but it can become anxiety-inducing because life throws up roadblocks that aren’t your fault.

There you have it! A #plannermatch featuring my husband Frank and his Productivity Planner! If you have questions for me (or Frank) leave them in the comments below and we will answer them! ๐Ÿ™‚

xo
Ara